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Postcard Direct Mail Marketing: How the Advantages Stack Up

Editor's note: Direct mail postcard marketing is an ideal way for many small businesses to reach out to their prospective customers because it's typically less expensive than other forms of direct mail marketing. In addition to the postage being less for direct mail postcard marketing, there's less paper involved and no envelope.

Whether you're starting a new business or promoting an established one, postcard direct mail marketing can sometimes be more effective than sending a letter or brochure in an envelope. With postcard marketing, you're avoiding one of the biggest hurdles to direct mail marketing success: getting the prospect to open the envelope! With postcard marketing, there IS no envelope to open. However, the challenge with postcard direct mail marketing, as is the case with any kind of advertising or marketing, is to write an effective message that gets noticed and that gets acted on.

Your prospective customers are pelted with hundreds, if not thousands of advertising and marketing messages every single day, so they (and you) tend to filter out 95% of them-- otherwise, we'd all suffer from information overload! So, if you can come up with an attention-grabbing direct mail message in your postcard marketing campaign, which is accompanied by persuasive incentives and a "call to action", then there's a good chance that your postcard direct mail marketing efforts will help drum up some new business -- or at the very least, generate some promising leads. Of course, you have to make sure that you're sending your offers to a targeted, qualified audience that would most likely be interested in your product, service, or new real estate listing.

That's a quick overview of the pluses and minuses of direct mail postcard marketing. (As you can see, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of this cost-effective form of direct mail marketing. A compelling marketing offer sent to a receptive target group can generate leads for real estate agents, self employed business owners, and work at home freelancers.

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Now, for a more in-depth look into this potentially profitable form of direct mail marketing, here's a series of informative articles and postcard marketing ideas from guest columnist Martha Retallick:

Postcard Direct Mail Marketing Tips...
Build Your Own No-Cost Mailing List
by Martha Retallick, "The Passionate Postcarder"

I've never used a mailing list broker. Reason? When I first started doing postcard mailings back in 1996, I could barely afford to pay my house rent. So, renting a mailing list was out of the question.

One of the advantages of operating on a low budget is that you can't spend your way out of problems, you have to think your way out. In the case of my mailing list, the thinking centered around the question of Who Do I Know?

A spin through my desktop Rolodex yielded a treasure trove of names. Then there were those helpful family members and friends who referred names to the list. (Most of the time, I didn't even have to ask these people for names. But it never hurts to ask!) And thumbing through the directories of organizations I belonged to was also useful.

So, there you have it, four readily available sources of names:

  1. Your Rolodex (or some other business card file)
  2. Family and friends
  3. People referred by your family and friends (ask them!)
  4. Membership directories from organizations you belong to
You'll be able to build up quite a list in no time. And if you keep postcarding over the years, your list will grow some more.

About the author: Martha Retallick, "The Passionate Postcarder," hails from Tucson, Arizona, USA. She is the author of Postcard Marketing Secrets, a downloadable PDF manual that will show you how to put postcards to work for your business's profitably. c2004, Martha Retallick

Postcard Direct Mail Marketing Tips...
Follow Up with Finesse
by Martha Retallick

I've heard a lot of people lament the fact that they just sent out a big postcard mailing, and, alas, no one called.

Hey, it's happened to me.

I've sent cards that I thought were so good that I was sure my phone would start ringing off the hook. And then my little Web and graphic design studio would be so busy that I'd be booked solid for the next three months. Hooray!

But, instead, nothing but silence from the phone.

Which means that it's time for me to start making some other phones ring. Time to start smiling and dialing those hot prospects, clients, and anyone else who might send some business my way. The phone conversations sound like this:

  1. Prospect A has been meaning to give me a call, and, hey, thanks for sending the postcard.
  2. Client B got the card earlier in the week, and she has a big project coming up within a month.
  3. Client C, who just put the card on the office refrigerator door, knows someone who needs me to help him with his website project. This is where building a mailing list from people you know can really pay off.
  4. When you follow up after a card mailing, you're not making cold calls to a bunch of strangers. And, let's face it, we're more likely to do business with someone we know. By developing your own list, you can stack the odds of success in your favor. [c2004, Martha Retallick]

    Direct Mail Postcard Marketing tips...
    Begin With The End In Mind
    by Martha Retallick

    You've probably heard the expression, "Begin with the end in mind." It's good to keep those six words of wisdom handy when you're deciding what your postcard should look like and what it should say.

    For many of us, "the end" we have in mind relates to some sort of business goal. Here's an example:

    You want people to come to your women's clothing store's 5th anniversary sale, so, you'll create a postcard inviting your customers to come in and shop during the sale.

    To track the results of your postcard mailing, you'll also include a line of copy that offers an additional 10% off if the customer brings in the card.

    Okay, that's the clothing retailer's goal. What's yours? I know that's a tough question, and since we're not in school, I'll help you with the answer. Here are five postcard planning tips:

    1) Decide if you want to:

    • Generate sales from existing customers
    • Generate sales from new customers
    • Announce a "preferred customers only" sale
    • Tell people about your new studio
    • Announce the launch of your new software release
    • Thank people for doing business with you

    2) Focus on benefits, not features. What is the strongest benefit you're offering? Do you offer free delivery? Free installation? The best appliance repairs in town? Work that benefit into your design and your copy.
    3) Make an offer your card recipients can't refuse. These days, we're inundated with offers, so tell your customers that they can get a free update on your software if they purchase by the end of this month. Or ask them to bring the postcard to your store to get an additional 5% off on purchases over $50.
    4) Give them several ways to contact you. Put your address, phone number, e-mail, and Web address on your postcard.
    5) Tell people what to do next. Should they pick up the phone and place their orders now? Or visit your website to get the Internet-only special? Bring the card to your store no later than the 15th of this month? Getting the postcard into their hands is only the first step in your postcard marketing. You must get your recipients to take the next step, and you need to tell them what that step is. [c2004, Martha Retallick]

    Direct Mail Postcards Marketing Tips...
    Getting Ideas for Your Postcards
    by Martha Retallick

    If you're going to do postcard marketing on an ongoing basis, it's a good idea to have a collection of cards to inspire you. In advertising and marketing circles, this is called a "swipe file."

    How do you start a swipe file? By watching your mail!

    Save all the postcards that arrive in your mailbox for one month, and I guarantee that you'll have a bumper crop of ideas to choose from. (During the political campaign season, it'll only take a week.)

    NOTE: The swipe file is intended to be an inspirational tool for you to generate your own original ideas, not to copy those of others.

    I keep my own swipe file in one of those 2-inch file pockets that I bought at an office supply house. File pockets have closed sides, which keep your postcards from falling out and scattering all over the floor.

    Once you've created your swipe file, use it as your arsenal of postcard marketing ideas. Draw on it for card design ideas, copywriting ideas, and, hey, while we're at it, ideas for other kinds of promotions that you do. After all, there's nothing that says that an idea you got from a postcard can't be used in a display ad or on a promotional tee shirt! [c2004, Martha Retallick]

    Direct Mail Postcard Marketing tips...
    Refrigerator Door Mindshare
    by Martha Retallick

    If you want to design effective postcards, then aim for "Refrigerator Door Mindshare."

    By this, I mean that you should create a card that someone would be proud to display on his or her refrigerator door.

    The image on the front of your postcard should be simple, but attractive. I've found that brightly colored cards pull a better response than dark, moody cards. Save your artistic angst for some other medium.

    You should also create an image that's easily comprehended. Why? Because your recipients will only give your cards a one- or two-second glance before deciding to keep them or throw them away.

    Think billboard. A billboard must get its point across quickly, because people are driving by at high rates of speed. It also must be memorable.

    So, here's a homework assignment, the next time you're out and about, look at the billboards. Advertisers are paying good money to put them up, so why not use them as a source of free design ideas?

    Now, ask yourself a couple of questions:

    1. Which billboards are memorable?
    2. Which billboards are forgettable?

    You can also do the same thing with advertising you see in bus and train stations, or in airports.

    You may have noticed this when you've been sending postcards, or doing some other form of marketing. Your responders will fall into one of the following groups:

    1. People who respond right away.
    2. People who respond several weeks, months, or even years later.

    You may get a lot of "right away" responders, which is the desired result of most marketing activities, but you'll still get replies from people who've saved your postcards.

    And "keeper cards" are a good thing. Why? Because if your recipients are keeping what you're sending out, chances are good that they'll eventually do business with you. [c 2004, Martha Retallick]

    Direct Mail Postcard Marketing tips...
    Use the Right Yardstick: Measuring the Return
    on Your Direct Mail Investment

    by Martha Retallick

    In direct mail marketing lore, there's a rule stating that you can measure the success of your efforts by a minimum response rate of 1-2%.

    In other words, if you send out 10,000 pieces, you'll have a successful mailing if at least 100 recipients respond to your offer. (One percent of 10,000 is 100.)

    That's one view of direct mailing success.

    Permit me to offer a different perspective: one from the small business world. Specifically, I'm referring to those small business people who work by and for themselves. Call them "One-Man Bands," "Working Soloists," "Free Agents," or whatever you'd like.

    To help you remember these two perspectives, let's give them a couple of catchy names:

    1. The "Playing the Percentages" Perspective. This is the "industry standard 1-2% response rate on your mailings" perspective you've heard so much about. This is the yardstick favored by businesses that are sending large quantities of direct mail to sell mass market products.

    For example, if I own a pizza parlor, and I'm doing a "use this card for 10% off on your next order" mailing to all residences within a three-mile radius of my business, I might have a mailing list of 10,000 names.

    You'd better believe that I'm going to watch the overall response rate like a hawk, and I'm going to be looking at precisely where those hungry customers are coming from. If most of them are coming from a handful of apartment complexes next to a college campus, I'll know to send my future mailings to those complexes.

    2. The "You Only Need A Few" Perspective. This is the one for those One-Man (or One-Woman) Bands who are selling services that take a fair amount of time to provide. Like marketing consulting, public relations services, graphic design, or customized computer software applications.

    For these folks, a handful of new or repeat clients from a promotional mailing is quite enough. After all, as the sole proprietor of a graphic design studio told me once, "I don't want to be a victim of my own (direct mail) success." [copyright 2004, Martha Retallick]

edited 3/5/11, 11/30/13, and 4/11/14